The jitters were there for Kiefer Ravena when he stepped in to face top-level competition for the first time in 15 months.
Ravena, though, felt a sense of relief when he came off the bench for Gilas Pilipinas with 3:51 left in the first quarter against the Adelaide 36ers, who held a 17-11 lead at that point against the national team in the second tuneup game between the two teams.
"When I stepped in for the first time I felt I didn't need to hide anymore, to think that I'm not allowed to play here. I'm just back to playing the sport that I love and representing my country to the highest and best of my abilities," he said.
It didn't take too long for him to settle in. With Gilas trailing 29-13 after the first period, Ravena uncorked seven straight points -- a breakaway layup, a triple and a jumper fading to the right-to inject some energy into the national team's offense to open the second quarter.
"One Adelaide player gave me a steal and a layup, and after that I felt better. The over eagerness that I felt disappeared and the calm set in," Ravena noted when asked where he started feeling comfortable.
They went on to lose by 10 after trailing until the final buzzer, but Ravena's performance showed just how much Gilas could benefit from having the offensive-minded guard on board in the backcourt.
"For me to be able to share the court with them once again, especially with Paul [Lee] it's a big thing for me coming to the World Cup," said Ravena. "Could have been a better ending for us going to World Cup, but for me, I just want to get my feet wet especially since I haven't played in a long time. It was really nice to be around the guys again."
He later drew some praise from Coach Yeng Guiao, who was elated to see the guard play really well in his first game back, and even from Adelaide coach Joey Wright.
"He's very smart. He's extremely smart, he can shoot the ball very well," Wright observed.
"I'm happy. I'm satisfied. I'm impressed, actually. It's his first game but it was already impressive," said Guiao. "Actually, I was thinking of putting him back in the endgame but I told myself that I'll save that for next time because I was already happy with what I saw. So he will get better.
"And the good thing about Kiefer is he's not just contributing on the floor. He also contributes off the floor. Even as young as he is, he is well-respected and considered as a leader of this team already."
Ravena bared that he'll play in a tune-up for the NLEX Road Warriors to get some reps in before they head to China.
"There's a lot more I need to do. Hopefully I can catch up. I think we have a tune-up game with NLEX versus Phoenix on Wednesday, so I'll be playing there also so I have more games under me before the World Cup. We'll reach the semis," he said.
But before reaching any of those aspirations next conference, he's looking to finish some business with the national team. Despite losing against Adelaide, Gilas' fourth quarter execution was still a good indication that the national team has all the tools to be able to click when the FIBA World Cup begins later this week, giving Ravena and company a lot to be optimistic about.
"The most important part for us right now is we trust each other. Time is really not on our side, so just being around the system and finding our way within it, I think we'll be able to surprise the world," said Ravena.